Comprehensive Guide To Great 2020 Books

The Most Popular Books Of 2020, So Far

By Daniel Griffin

All across the web, content pushers are spinning any and every topic imaginable to capture America’s quarantined attention. Weeding through the panic-inducing clickbait can be difficult.

If you’re like me, some of you might find the problem is not necessarily finding resources, but rather, finding it hard to let go; the constant scrolling, headline after headline that seem to shout with the numbing effect of the surreal, only to realize life will never be the same – the perpetual effects of dwelling.

As a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer who served as a health volunteer in Rwanda working to fight HIV/AIDS, Tuberculous and malnutrition, I can tell you from first-hand experience that dwelling is one of the worst things a person can do. Control what you can control. Focus on the little things, focus on the process, whatever that process may be.

So, here then is a one-stop-shop for literary distraction – a comprehensive guide into the most trendy, popular books of 2020 so far, covering sources like newspapers, magazines, public personalities/authors and influencers like book clubs. Weaved in are lists themed around the idea of appropriate books for a quarantine setting like Boccaccio’s The Decameron. I’ve done some research for you, and hopefully you’ll find this post as convenient and therapeutic as that soup.

For a quick guide to the seven most recommended books on these lists, visit Seven Hot Books To Read Right Now.

With a library card and PIN number, you can access many titles on the Atheneum’s website and download ebooks and audiobooks for free.

Let’s begin…

A publication like the New York Times is always a good resource for finding a write-up on current literary trends. From “11 New Books We Recommend This Week,” dated March 12, the Times gives readers a wide range of possibilities. If you’re looking for a foreign perspective, The Guardian, a daily British newspaper, has a piece up that features a must-read list while quarantined.


New York Times

“11 New Books We Recommend This Week”

By: Gregory Cowles, Senior Editor, Books

  • Fiebre Tropical, by Juli Delgado Lopera
  • The Mirror And The Light, by Hilary Mantel.
  • Rebel Cinderella: From Rags to Riches to Radical, the Epic Journey of Rose Pastor Stokes, by Adam Hochschild.
  • Deacon King Kong, by James McBride.
  • Everywhere You Don’t Belong, by Gabriel Bump.
  • The Decadent Society: How We Became the Victims of Our Own Success, by Ross Douthat.
  • Whistleblower: My Journey to Silicon Valley and Fight for Justice at Uber, by Susan Fowler.
  • Race Against Time: A Reporter Reopens the Unsolved Murder Cases of the Civil Rights Era, by Jerry Mitchell.
  • Until The End Of Time: Mind, Matter, and Our Search for Meaning in an Evolving Universe, by Brian Greene.
  • Tyll, by Daniel Kehlmann.
  • Stateway’s Garden: Stories, by Jasmon Drain.

The Guardian

“A dystopian reading list: books to enjoy while in quarantine”

By: Lois Beckett

  • Station Eleven, by Emily St John Mandel
  • Severance, by Ling Ma
  • The Great Believers, by Rebecca Makkai
  • The Old Drift, by Namwali Serpell
  • The Power, by Naomi Alderman
  • The Doomsday Book, by Connie Willis
  • Year of Wonders, by Geraldine Brooks
  • The Training Commission, by Ingrid Burrington and Brendan Byrne
  • Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Brontë
  • Room, by Emma Donoghue
  • Real Life, by Brandon Taylor
  • My Side of the Mountain, by Jean Craighead George
  • The Plague, by Albert Camus
  • Meditations in an Emergency, by Frank O’Hara
  • My Year of Rest and Relaxation, by Ottessa Moshfegh
  • Something that May Shock and Discredit You, by Daniel Mallory Ortberg (now Daniel M Lavery)
  • The Decameron, by Boccaccio

There are lots of online resources out there covering great topics when it comes to recent literary popularity. Explore the following list of mostly online magazines to see who is saying what about the most recent novels to hit the market.



“The Best Books To Elevate Your Reading List in 2020”

By: Adrienne Westenfeld

  • Golden Gates: Fighting for Housing in America, by Conor Dougherty
  • American Poison: How Racial Hostility Destroyed Our Promise, by Eduardo Porter
  • Had I Known, by Barbara Ehrenreich
  • This Is Big: How the Founder of Weight Watchers Changed the World–and Me, by Marisa Meltzer
  • Notes from an Apocalypse: A Personal Journey to the End of the World and Back, by Mark O’Connell
  • Lurking, by Joanne McNeil
  • Topics of Conversation, by Miranda Popkey
  • Boys & Sex, by Peggy Orenstein
  • Cleanness, by Garth Greenwell
  • Uncanny Valley, by Anna Wiener
  • A Long Petal of the Sea, by Isabel Allende
  • The Third Rainbow Girl, by Emma Copley Eisenberg
  • Weather, by Jenny Offill
  • In the Land of Men, by Adrienne Miller
  • The Illness Lesson, by Clare Beams
  • Minor Feelings, by Cathy Park Hong
  • My Dark Vanessa, by Kate Elizabeth Russell
  • Enter the Aardvark, by Jessica Anthony
  • Perfect Tunes, by Emily Gould


“The 10 Best Young Adult Books You Literally Won’t Be Able To Put Down in 2020”

By: Kelly Allen

  • Tweet Cute, by Emma Lord
  • They Wish They Were Us, by Jessica Goodman
  • The Gravity of Us, by Phil Stamper
  • All Your Twisted Secrets, by Diana Urban
  • One of Us Is Next, by Karen M. McManus
  • This Train Is Being Held, by Ismée Williams
  • The Ballad of Songs and Snakes, by Suzanne Collins
  • Of Curses and Kisses, by Sandhya Menon
  • This Is All Your Fault, by Aminah Mae Safi
  • We Used to Be Friends, by Amy Spalding


“The best True crime Books In 2020 Will Ensure You’ll Never Want To Leave The House”

By: Becca Van Sambeck

  • Broken Faith: Inside the Word of Faith Fellowship, One of America’s Most Dangerous Cults, by Associated Press reporters Mitch Weiss and Holbrook Mohr
  • The Adventurer’s Son: A Memoir, by Roman Dial
  • American Sherlock: Murder, Forensics, and the Birth of American CSI, by Kate Winkler Dawson
  • The Third Rainbow Girl: The Long Life of a Double Murder in Appalachia, by Emma Copley Eisenberg
  • Gone at Midnight: The Mysterious Death of Elisa Lam, by Jake Anderson
  • Natalie Wood: The Complete Biography, by Suzanne Finstad
  • The Falcon Thief: A True Tale of Adventure, Treachery, and the Hunt for the Perfect Bird, by Joshua Hammer
  • The Phantom Prince: My Life with Ted Bundy, Updated and Expanded Edition, by Elizabeth Kendall, with a contribution from Molly Kendall
  • Start by Believing: Larry Nassar’s Crimes, the Institutions that Enabled Him, and the Brave Women Who Stopped a Monster, by John Barr and Dan Murphy
  • Yellow Bird: Oil, Murder, and a Woman’s Search for Justice in Indian Country, by Sierra Crane Murdoch

Harper’s BAZAAR

“The 15 Best Books to Read in 2020”

By: Keely Weiss

  • The Lying Life of Adults, by Elena Ferrante
  • Rodham, by Curtis Sittenfeld
  • Transcendent Kingdom: A Novel, by YAA GYASI
  • The Glass Hotel: A novel, by Emily St. John Mandel
  • My Dark Vanessa: A Novel, by Kate Elizabeth Russell
  • The Death of Vivek Oji: A Novel, by Akwaeke Emezi
  • Real Life: A Novel, by Brandon Taylor
  • Wow, No Thank You.: Essays, by Samantha Irby
  • Death in Her Hands: A Novel, by Ottessa Moshfegh
  • It’s Not All Downhill From Here: A Novel, by Terry McMillan
  • The Vanishing Half: A Novel, by Brit Bennett
  • Hood Feminism: Notes from the Women That a Movement Forgot, by Mikki Kendall
  • Fairest: A Memoir, by Meredith Talusan
  • Can’t Even: How Millennials Became the Burnout Generation, by Anne Helen Petersen
  • The Resisters: A novel, by Gish Jen


“The 5 Best Books of 2020 (So Far)”

By: Emma Specter

  • Uncanny Valley, by Anna Wiener
  • Apartment, by Teddy Wayne
  • In the Land of Men, by Adrienne Miller
  • Always Home: A Daughter’s Recipes & Stories, by Fanny Singer
  • Live Beautiful, by Athena Calderone

“8 New Books to Read While You’re Stuck Inside This March”

By: Emma Specter

  • Writers & Lovers, by Lily King
  • These Ghosts Are Family, by Maisy Card
  • Separation Anxiety, by Laura Zigman
  • Temporary, by Hilary Leichter
  • Sharks in the Time of Saviors, by Kawai Strong Washburn
  • My Dark Vanessa, by Kate Elizabeth Russell
  • House of Glass: The Story and Secrets of a Twentieth-Century Jewish Family, by Hadley Freeman
  • More Myself: A Journey, by Alicia Keys

The Oprah Magazine

“14 of the Best Books to Read this March”

By: Editors’ Picks

  • The Mirror & the Light, by Hilary Mantel
  • It’s Not All Downhill From Here, by Terry McMillan
  • The Night Watchman, by Louise Erdrich
  • The Glass Hotel, by Emily St. John Mandel
  • Deacon King Kong, by James McBride
  • Our Revolution: A Mother and Daughter at Midcentury, by Honor Moore
  • You Will Never Be Forgotten: Stories, by Mary South
  • Recollections of My Nonexistence: A Memoir, by Rebecca Solnit
  • Days of Distraction, by Alexandra Chang
  • We Ride Upon Sticks, by Quan Barry
  • The Power Notebooks, by Katie Roiphe
  • Writers & Lovers, by Lily King
  • The Other Bennet Sister, by Janice Hadlow
  • The Mountains Sing, by NguyÊn Phan QuÊ Mai

One of the best online resources for everything current in the world of books is the Library Journal. Beyond the feature listed here, I highly recommend taking the time to digest the Journal’s website. It’s a wealth of knowledge for those avid readers out there.

Online Publications

Library Journal

“2020 Forward Forecast: Books To Have on Your Radar Now”

By: Neal Wyatt

  • Big Ticket Titles
  • The Night Watchman, by Louise Erdrich
  • The City We Became, by N.K. Jemisin
  • Deacon King Kong, by James McBride
  • The Lying Life of Adults, by Elena Ferrante
  • Actress: A Novel, by Anne Enright
  • A Long Petal of the Sea, by Isabel Allende
  • Big Summer, by Jennifer Weiner (Cape Code wedding during the summer)
  • Non-Fiction
  • Franklin & Washington: The Founding Partnership, by Edward J. Larson
  • The Splendid and the Vile: A Saga of Churchill, Family, and Defiance During the Blitz, by Erik Larson
  • Navigate Your Stars, by Jesmyn Ward
  • Joy at Work: Organizing Your Professional Life, by Marie Kondo and Scott Sonenshein
  • Cook Book
  • Magnolia Table, Volume 2: A Collection of Recipes for Gathering, by Joanna Gaines (said to be a for sure best seller)
  • Books Already Making Best-Of Lists
  • Topics of Conversation, by Miranda Popkey
  • Weather, by Jenny Offill
  • Uncanny Valley: A Memoir, by Anna Wiener
  • American Dirt, by Jeanine Cummins
  • Little Gods, by Meng Jin
  • Why We Can’t Sleep: Women’s New Midlife Crisis, by Ada Calhoun
  • Separation Anxiety, by Laura Zigman
  • Something That May Shock and Discredit You, by Daniel M. Lavery
  • Anna K, by Jenny Lee
  • Long-Awaited Returns: popular authors’ new material
  • The Glass Hotel, by Emily St. John Mandel
  • The Mirror & the Light, by Hilary Mantel, end of her Cromwell trilogy
  • Writers & Lovers, by Lily King
  • Long Bright River, by Liz Moore
  • It’s Not All Downhill From Here, by Terry McMillan
  • The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, by Suzanne Collins
  • Interior Chinatown, by Charles Yu
  • Hid from Our Eyes, by Julia Spencer-Fleming, Brings back the Clare Fergusson/Russ Van Alstyne mystery series
  • Afterlife, by Julia Alvarez
  • The Lost Future of Pepperharrow, by Natasha Pulley, Sequel to her debut: The Watchmaker of Filigree Street
  • Debuts To Watch: New Names to Know
  • My Dark Vanessa, by Kate Elizabeth Russell
  • The Lion’s Den, by Katherine St. John
  • Deep State, by Chris Hauty
  • The Tenant, by Katrine Engberg, (The first in her Danish best-selling series)
  • Kept Animals, by Kate Milliken
  • How Much of These Hills Is Gold, by C Pam Zhang
  • Darling Rose Gold, by Stephanie Wrobel
  • Vagabonds, by Hao Jingfang, translated by Ken Liu
  • Get These On Your Radar
  • The Split, by Sharon Bolton
  • Daughter from the Dark, by Sergey and Marina Dyachenko
  • Processed Cheese, by Stephen Wright
  • So We Can Glow, by Leesa Cross-Smith
  • And I Do Not Forgive You: Stories and Other Revenges, by Amber Sparks
  • Small Days and Nights, by Tishani Doshi
  • The Immortals of Tehran, by Ali Araghi

The LA Times, The New York Times and Today have pieces featuring authors and their picks for either a sense of comfort or a list of books they might finally read while in quarantine. Sometimes it’s nice to get a bit of perspective from those that we consider to be masters of the craft, especially nice to get an opinion from someone other than a critic.


LA Times

“11 authors, from Laila Lalami to Jonathan Lethem, on the books they might finally read in quarantine”

By: Tobias Carroll

  • Porochista Khakpour (“Sick”): “Middlemarch” by George Eliot
  • Garth Greenwell (“Cleanness”): “Daniel Deronda” by George Elliot
  • Dexter Palmer (“Mary Toft; or, The Rabbit Queen”): Philip Hensher’s “The Northern Clemency”
  • Jonathan Lethem (“The Fortress of Solitude”): Uwe Johnson’s “Anniversaries”
  • Nell Zink (“Doxology”): Tilla Durieux‘s autobiography [“Meine ersten neunzig Jahre: Erinnerungen” or “My First Ninety Years: Memories”
  • Laird Barron (“Worse Angels”): Lawrence Block’s “When the Sacred Ginmill Closes”
  • Alexander Chee (“How to Write an Autobiographical Novel”): “Lampedusa,” the novel about Giuseppe di Lampedusa, the author of “The Leopard,”
  • Brandon Hobson (“Where the Dead Sit Talking”): Yoko Tawada’s “The Emissary,”
  • Taffy Brodesser-Akner (“Fleishman Is in Trouble”): Kate Elizabeth Russell’s “My Dark Vanessa.”
  • Kristen Arnett (“Mostly Dead Things”): Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s “Crime and Punishment”
  • Laila Lalami (“The Other Americans”): “Middlemarch” by George Eliot

New York Times

“Celeste Ng, Ann Patchett, Min Jin Lee and Others on the Books That Bring Them Comfort”

By: Elisabeth Egan and Tina Jordan

  • Celeste Ng: ‘The Princess Bride,’ by William Goldman
  • Elizabeth Gilbert: ‘The Summer Book,’ by Tove Jansson
  • Kiley Reid: ‘Bird by Bird,’ by Anne Lamott
  • Lily King: ‘I Capture the Castle,’ by Dodie Smith
  • Ruth Ware: ‘Love in a Cold Climate,’ by Nancy Mitford
  • Bryan Stevenson: ‘The Warmth of Other Suns,’ by Isabel Wilkerson
  • Ann Patchett: ‘Writers & Lovers,’ by Lily King
  • Erik Larson: ‘News of the World’ by Paulette Jiles
  • Min Jin Lee: ‘Cousin Bette,’ by Honoré de Balzac
  • Luis Alberto Urrea: ‘Winter Morning Walks,’ by Ted Kooser
  • Courtney Sullivan: ‘The In-Betweens,’ by Mira Ptacin
  • Amy Bloom: ‘Ledger,’ by Jane Hirshfield
  • Joshua Ferris: ‘Gilead,’ by Marilynne Robinson
  • Taffy Brodesser-Akner: ‘Sabbath’s Theater,’ by Philip Roth
  • Victor LaValle: ‘The Essential Ellison,’ by Harlan Ellison
  • Curtis Sittenfeld: ‘Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda,’ by Becky Albertalli
  • Helen Simonson: ‘Three Men in a Boat,’ by Jerome K. Jerome
  • Tayari Jones: ‘The Color Purple,’ by Alice Walker
  • Glennon Doyle: ‘Tiny Beautiful Things,’ by Cheryl Strayed
  • Madeline Miller: ‘Fingersmith,’ by Sarah Waters
  • Lucy Kalanithi: ‘Zen Shorts,’ by Jon J. Muth


“11 author-approved books worth adding to your reading list”

By: Kerry Breen

“Authors Isaac Fitzgerald and Sarah J. Maas were joined by the National Book Foundations’ executive director Lisa Lucas to talk about their favorite recent reads on TODAY. The three shared the fiction, nonfiction and children’s books they recommend adding to your reading list.” – Breen

  • Fiction Books
  • Fitzgerald’s Pick: “Real Life” by Brandon Taylor
  • Maas’ Pick: “A Madness of Sunshine” by Nalini Singh
  • Lucas’ Pick: “Weather” by Jenny Offill
  • NonFiction Books
  • Fitzgerald’s Pick: “You Never Forget Your First” by Alexis Coe
  • Maas’ Pick: “The Season: A Social History of the Debutante” by Kristen Richardson
  • Lucas’ Pick: “Minor Feelings: An Asian American Reckoning” by Cathy Park Hong
  • Children and Young Adults
  • Fitzgerald’s Pick: “Music is My Life” by Myles Tanzer
  • Maas’ Pick: “Serpent and Dove” by Shelby Mahurin
  • Lucas’ Pick: “How to be a Pirate” by Isaac Fitzgerald
  • Authors Choice
  • Fitzgerald’s Pick: “A Jack Book Series” by Mac Barnett
  • Maas’ Pick: “Kid Gloves” by Lucy Knisley
  • Lucas’ Pick: “Vernon Subutex 1” by Virginie Despentes

What are the book clubs saying? E! News does its own write-up on the top celebrity book clubs, covering the month of March 2020, while BookRiot directs readers to the best online book clubs in 2020.

Book Clubs

E! News

“March 2020 Celebrity Book Club Picks From Reese Witherspoon, Jenna Bush Hager, & More”

By: Carolin Lehmann

  • Reese Witherspoon’s book club pick for March is “The Jetsetters” by Amanda Eyre Ward.
  • Jenna Bush Hager is reading Writers & Lovers by Lily King with her book club.
  • Former Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck also has a book club, in which he recommends The Hare with Amber Eyes: A Hidden Inheritance by Edmund de Waal
  • Florence Welch of Florence and the Machine may not have a book club, but she definitely has a recommendation for you. It’s Salt Slow by Julia Armfield
  • Emma Roberts and film producer Karah Preiss have a book club called Belletrist, whose March pick is These Ghosts Are Family by Maisy Card.


“Best Online Book Clubs: 15 Online Clubs To Join In 2020”

By: Emily Martin


“Here’s another brand new book club to get excited about. If you’re already a member of the FabFitFun community, it’s easy enough to join. FabFitFun is a quarterly subscription box that offers up a lot of really amazing goodies, and now you can get the book club pick of the quarter added on to your box, if you’d like. Then just head over to the book club page to join in on the discussion. The club will include discussion forums, check-ins throughout your reading, and a chat with the author herself.” – Martin


“Love football and reading and want a book club that merges your two interests? Look no further than the Andrew Luck Book Club. Andrew Luck is a quarterback in the NFL, and he also loves reading. So much so that he’s created this club. There are two book club options here. The Rookie Book is a children’s book, and the Veteran Book is, you guessed it, an adult book. And even if you don’t know who Andrew Luck is or don’t care about football, this club is still for you. The books are not football-related.

Here’s how it works. Every month, Andrew Luck will recommend two books (an adult book and a children’s book). During the football season, Luck says he may even have “surprise” hosts help with the book selections. Share your thoughts about the book with the hashtag #ALBookClub, and listen to the podcast to hear Luck’s thoughts about the book, interviews with the authors, and much more.” – Martin


“The great thing about this online book club is you have the option to take it IRL as well. Poppy Loves Book Club offers the opportunity to join or create a local book club or just participate online. This is a book club specifically for women featuring women authors.

Their mission statement is as follows: “Poppy Loves Book Club is a celebration of women that is getting bigger and better every day…It’s your gang. It’s your sisterhood. And it’s heart-pingingly wonderful.” Sound good? Check them out!” – Martin


“Our Shared Shelf was originally created by actress Emma Watson as part of her work with UN Women. The mission was to read as many books about feminism and equality as possible. Now Emma Watson’s team no longer manages the Goodreads group. However, the group remains open so that members can continue to run the book club on their own. Continued discussion of books and feminism in general are still happening in the Goodreads group now. So it’s still a happening book community that is very much worth checking out!” – Marin


“The Rumpus Book Club is a book club and subscription service all rolled into one, which I think is pretty neat. Here’s how it works. Each month you pay $29 and in exchange you receive a brand new book that hasn’t been released yet. The book club discusses the book throughout the month as you read it. Then, at the end of the month, there’s an exclusive moderated online discussion with the author of the book.

The Rumpus also has a Poetry Book Club that works similarly. The best part? You can sign up for both book clubs for a discounted price of $50/month.” – Martin


This book club is exactly what it sounds like. And if you’re looking for a community of history lovers who also love to read, then this is the best online book club for you. There are so many discussions going on, including monthly books to read and chats about history in general. Join up to become part of one of the biggest Goodreads communities.” – Martin


“Speaking of great big Goodreads communities, here’s another one worth joining. This online book club focuses on New Adult books. If you’re new to the New Adult genre, think Young Adult but with more mature themes. The community features monthly group reads, challenges, opportunities to chat with authors, and much more.” – Martin


“Here’s another great Goodreads community, and this one lists itself as the official unofficial Goodreads Choice Awards book club. Over the course of the year, this book club reads Goodreads Choice Awards winners throughout multiple categories. So if you’re looking to read a good variety of highly rated books and discuss them with others, here’s the book club for you.” – Martin


“Girls’ Night In is a project that’s all about promoting mental health awareness and self-care practices for women. The book club is one of the many things they do, and while they do have in-person meet-ups throughout the country, you can also participate online using the hashtag #GNIReads. This book club focuses on picking books written by women and nonbinary authors.” – Martin


“This is another book club that requires a monthly subscription, but it comes with a lot of exclusive content. Sign up to get access to exclusive author interviews, community discussions, and even classes. The classes cover a wide range of reader-related topics like how to write better book reviews, journaling techniques, how to ask for Advanced Reader Copies of books, and much more. If you’re looking to enrich all aspects of your reading life, the Modern Mrs. Darcy Book Club wants to help you do that.” – Martin


“With over 80,000 members, the Reddit Book Club is the place to be if you want a large and active community. Every month, members vote for their next read and then discuss the book via discussion threads. Threads remain open so you can go back and chat about previous book picks as well.” – Martin


“This is another Goodreads community that offers up two monthly reads every month. One book is based on a theme as voted on by members. The community also includes reading challenges, promo threads for authors, giveaways, and blogs.” – Martin


“Love Tumblr? Then why not make it your hub for your online book club community? Each month, this Tumblr book club announces its book and its reading schedule. To become part of the discussion, just post on your own Tumblr blog using the hashtag #ReblogBookClub. The Reblog Book Club will then reblog it into the main conversation. And because Tumblr is all about multi-genre blog posts, feel free to discuss the book however you want. Some suggestions: a written review, fan art, gifs, poems, letters. Reblog Book Club even encourages you to post your nail art.” – Martin


“One last Goodreads book club to round out the list! This one is all about finally getting around to that book or series you’ve always wanted to read but haven’t gotten around to reading just yet. Join your fellow reading procrastinators here for group reads, games, challenges, and more.” – Martin.

Daniel Griffin is an Atheneum library associate who works on the circulation desk and in the Adult Programs Department.